A stand-off between the Parramatta Eels and the operators of the new Western Sydney Stadium over how much the club has to pay to play there won't be resolved before the draw for the 2019 Telstra Premiership is released next week.
Both Eels CEO Bernie Gurr and a spokesman for VenuesLive – the operators of both WSS and ANZ Stadium – told NRL.com there was no meeting planned to sort out the mess.
That means the Eels have no "home" venue for the opening five rounds, as they were due to play out of ANZ Stadium before WSS opened its doors in April.
It's been anticipated that a Parramatta-Wests Tigers round six game on Easter Monday (April 2) would be the Eels maiden appearance in their new home.
But Gurr wrote to Eels members on Tuesday saying the contract VenuesLive is offering is not "fair and reasonable".
"The current proposal if accepted would adversely affect the ability of our club to invest in our Football Department including our NRL team and our junior elite football programs," Gurr told members on Tuesday.
"The current agreement at ANZ has adversely impacted the club financially and we are not prepared to accept a new agreement that will continue to impact the club negatively for the next 25 years."
The Eels were forced to play at ANZ stadium for 2017-2018 while the old Parramatta Stadium was demolished and replaced by a $360 million 30,000-seat rectangular venue.
But with no deal being struck between the Eels and VenuesLive, it leaves the Eels with a "TBC" (to be confirmed) beside their name when the NRL unveils the 2019 draw next week.
The NRL has been kept informed about the dispute and doesn't think the integrity of its draw will be compromised.
"The NRL draw is in great shape and will be released next week," a spokesman for the NRL said Tuesday.
VenuesLive also hopes an agreement will be reached before next week.
"Every attempt is being made to strike a deal in time for the release of the 2019 NRL draw," a spokesman said.
"While a deal has not been reached at this time, we remain committed to working with the Eels to ensure their members and fans get to see all that the magnificent new stadium has to offer in season 2019 and beyond."
Wests Tigers have done a deal with VenuesLive to play four "home" games at WSS next season.
Other NRL clubs are understood to be exploring the possibility of hosting games there too.
The Eels have hired independent consultants to investigate deals available elsewhere.
"Together we have benchmarked the commercial terms of the current offer against offerings currently being received by NRL and other sports at a range of stadiums across multiple states of Australia," Gurr said.
Over the years rugby league clubs have had very poor stadium dealsEels CEO Bernie Gurr
"In the interests of arriving at a fair and reasonable deal, we are continuing our discussions with the stadium operator in an attempt to resolve this matter quickly so that our members and supporters have a clear understanding of the WSS schedule for 2019," Gurr said.
The bottom line is that the Parramatta Eels have been through the financial wringer since the club was busted for salary cap breaches in 2016.
A new board and new governance rules are in place but they are still trying to get their debts under control.
The WSS operators maintain the club is being offered a deal that they can build their business around - effectively a deal that they pay only as much as they earn. They also maintain this is not a 15,000-seat suburban ground venue but a state-of-the-art facility that will be one of the premier stadiums in Australia.
The Eels were hoping the spanking new stadium would bring in huge crowds, stimulate a rise in membership and corporate sponsorship. They probably aren't keen to see some of that revenue drift back to the NSW Government.
"Over the years rugby league clubs have had very poor stadium deals, where at times it's very difficult to make money," Gurr told NRL.com.
"And we can't do that if we're committing for 15 to 25 years because the club and its programs and community work will suffer."